The Hawaiian Kīlauea Volcano Brings Hope to Hawaii’s Tourism


Liz Wilbur, Writer

Just five days before Christmas, Cheryl Gansecki, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaiʻi Hilo, had one of the best presents she could hope for, when was in bed when a small earthquake shook her awake sometime after 9:30 p.m. She checked the webcams at the summit of the Kīlauea Volcano, and she was shocked when she saw the bright glow coming from the crater of the volcano. The lava has returned!
Right away she took the 45 minute drive to the visitor Center at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.  By the time she arrived there was a multitude of people, and traffic jams. The last time Kīlauea spewed lava was more than two years ago in the summer of 2018, when it flowed through neighborhoods and destroyed more than 700 homes. Even though that happened, many people felt compelled to go and see the earth shaking view. Hundreds of cars showed up within a few hours, according to the park. It was a mix of curious locals, scientists, photographers as well as business owners.
Everyone was asking a lot of the same questions that night: What would this eruption become? Would it stabilize and provide an opportunity for the island’s economy, which has been devastated by the pandemic, to rebound? Would it entice people to travel to Hawaii and see one of nature’s greatest displays? Flash forward, optimism and excitement is bubbling up across the island.
At this moment, there are no signs of sudden decline or dangerous escalation of the eruption, according to Matt Patrick, a research geologist with the US Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS hypothesizes the eruption will stay stable in the right now, with the lava remaining within the cozy confines of the summit crater, safe for all to experience.
Which means that, the return of the hot, destructive lava has brought hope that 2021 might just be a better year than 2020 in tourism circles.